Cholesterol: Setting the Record Straight

Like one of the most common sources of this protein in the human diet (eggs), the science on cholesterol changes by the week. Think about it, how many times have you heard doctors, nutritionists, scientists, journalists, or just about anyone, say that cholesterol is bad (or good) for you, and then change their mind? In putting together Grain Brain, the science that I found painted a very clear picture of the true nature of cholesterol. The fact is: cholesterol isn’t the harbinger of nutritional doom that many would have you believe. In fact, study after study has linked cholesterol to improved attention/concentration, learning, memory and abstract reasoning. With this in mind, I’m a strong proponent of eating a diet that isn’t meant to minimize cholesterol levels in the body. Further, avoid the dangerous statins drugs. I’ll dedicate another post to that, but taking statin drugs could be one of the worst things we can do to our bodies. Instead, focus on maintaing a healthy level of cholesterol in your body. Go ahead, add a third (or even fourth!) egg to that Western Omelette you’re making.

Share this post

  • Loki

    How does this fit in with the link of high cholesterol and heart disease and the link of lower cholesterol levels and decreased rates of heart disease? If I were a high risk patient for a heart attack I no longer need to be concerned about my cholesterol levels?

  • Sherri Lynn Triolo

    Dear Dr. Perlmutter,
    I am a huge fan of your work ever since Power Up Your Brain. I have had quite a history of health issues which I won’t get into, but suffice it to say, I have followed almost all the advice that you have given in that book and now in Grain Brain. I also have a degree in Biochemistry and love the science of all this stuff. But here’s my question: My father, a type 1 diabetic with a history of 7-bypass surgery @ age 50 (he is now 65) has been on statins every since. His health has declined dramatically since then – mostly neurological. His thinking is slower, and his mood is definitely suffering. He now has diagnosed Parkinson’s. I am terribly concerned about the risk/benefit ratio of the statins and keeping his cholesterol horribly low (total 120). Is he really benefitting THAT MUCH cardiovascularly to warrant all the neurological issues of low cholesterol and statin use? I know what the research says about “normal people”, but what about specific situations like this? Thank you kindly for your advice. I certainly don’t trust my Dad’s doctors who are basically in bed with the statin pharmaceutical reps! Sincerely, Sherri Lynn

  • Liz

    Quick question about cholesterol in eggs. I’ve been told that what we need to be careful of is oxidizing the cholesterol in eggs by overcooking and should eat them poached, soft boiled or soft scrambled. Do you agree?

  • Paul Nebel

    I’m convinced, ordered the baseline tests this week, have already started the carb free diet, so when can I stop the Statins?

  • John

    Can you comment on the recent push to have more people take statin drugs?

    • David Perlmutter

      I’ll be posting a blog on that topic soon John. Thanks for the question!

      • Harley

        I’ll be waiting to see your post. My total cholesterol was recently tested at 384.
        HDL 74
        LDL 285
        I’ve recently lost over 90 pounds on a low carb diet and would hate to be talked into ending this diet because I feel so much better than I did with all that extra weight.

  • Sophie

    How confusing. Just today Dr.S. Gupta on CNN interviewed another MD who is promoting the idea that MORE people should be on statin drugs to control cholesterol levels.

  • Researcher87

    How should elevated levels of lipoprotein(a) and apolipoprotein B be viewed in taking statins?

  • Pingback: Useless Drugs | one size does not fit all()

  • Carol

    What is a “healthy” cholesterol level? Mine is 298 for total. I east low carb, no grains as you recommend. Is my cholesterol too high and how can I get it lower if needed on your diet? Thank you.


  • Silverback

    I have the same question as Carol. My total cholesterol is 271, but my triglyceride/HDL ratio is 1.70. I am paying more attention to the latter than the former but expect my MD will look at the total and recommend a statin. When I was on a statin my total cholesterol was about 117, which the MD thought was great but which I felt was much too low given what I have been reading, however the Trig/HDL ratio was worse.

  • Margot

    Many recipes call for nuts or milks or flours derived from nuts. What do you recommend as a replacement for someone with a severe nut allergy?

  • Maria G.

    I recently (5 months ago) started eating grain free. I feel amazing, I’ve lost 16 pounds and 2 sizes, I have a ton of energy and my chronic sinus infection went away. My cholesterol (at my recent physical) was 278–LDL 162 and HDL 107!! Doc wants me on a “diet”, to exercise (which I already do-I run about 20 miles per week) and retest in 3 months and possibly go on a cholesterol drug! BTW, ALL other chemistry panels were terrific! What do you think? Do I keep going on my grain free/sugar free diet and ignore what she says, or what?? I am frustrated that doctors don’t know the real scoop about the research! What are your thoughts, Dr. Permutter. I live in Barrington, Illinois. Do you know of any doctors out here that know the same things you do and treat their patients in non-stereotypical ways?? And also, do you really know my neighbor Aaron Bartz?? 🙂

  • Carol Martucci

    Does he ever answer any questions???

    • David Perlmutter

      I do my best to get to as many questions on this forum as I can Carol.

  • Marko

    I run a high cholesterol level approx 400. Years ago tried to reduce it during
    the oat bran fad. My cholesterol levels increased. My doc said my liver was producing the cholesterol, seeking to maintain its genetic-determined ideal levels. 20 years later, my
    primary care doc ordered statins. I am not overweight, 63 years old, on Perlmutter diet directions to address type 2 diabetes. general genetic longevity in family with a couple of male exceptions due heart problems. I keep asking primary doc how he knows that my high cholesterol challenges my heart health. Electro cardio showed nothing. He refers to statistics. So… start statins or not?

  • Shawn T.

    Dr. Perlmutter – Thank you for your great book, and for the citations
    to peer reviewed research which has allowed me to continue my learning
    on my own.

    I am a 46 (nearly 47) year old woman. I was diagnosed
    Celiac 5 years ago, after a lifetime of anxiety disorder, fatigue,
    infertility with very early menopause symptoms, endometriosis, random
    hives and rashes, and nearly daily stomach pain and diarrhea. At times I
    have been as much as 20 pounds over weight, but have always been very
    active and have been mostly fairly fit.

    I played the “mostly GF”
    card for 3 years, but have been very strict the last 2 years. In spite
    of that I was still having digestive disturbance issues and anxiety
    issues. In the last few months I have started to realize that ANY form
    of grain causes digestive issues and increases my anxiety. After reading
    you book, I cut grain out of my diet completely and greatly increased
    my fat intake (for most of my life I subscribed to the low-fat diet in
    an effort to keep my weight down). I’ve only been grain-free for two
    weeks and already having the best BM’s of my life (sorry if TMI)! And
    the anxiety is nearly gone.

    My question is – how much cholesterol
    is okay/ideal on a daily basis? I track all of my food intake and see
    that eating this way I take in between 600mg and 800mg of cholesterol
    per day (eggs, cheese and beef). This is obviously way above the US RDA,
    which I understand is too low. But how much is too much?

    Thank you kindly,
    Shawn T.

  • cjrunnergirl

    Okay, so now I’m worried. I’ve read the book, bought the cookbook and have been on the Grain Brain diet for almost 2 months now. My overall cholesterol actually went down 10 points, but my HDL went from 72 down to 22!!!! Is this bad? I work out 6 days a week with cardio kickboxing and resistance training. My weight is 126, my BMI is in healthy range, but my HDL went down 50 points. Should I be worried?

    • cjrunnergirl

      forgot to mention below, my total cholesterol is 228

  • Jon Julian

    I have been identified as having a high level of lipoprotein (a), 138. I have some degree of calcification in the coronary arteries (especially the descending left side). I exercise regularly and passed a stress echo cardiogram test with very good scores. My diet is good, not perfect, and I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke. My physician wants to start me on statins (Lipitor) to bring down my overall levels of cholesterol. What can I do further to address the atherosclerotic process without taking statins knowing that I have the genes that produce the lipoprotein (a). I am 62.

  • Maricela Flores

    What is a “healthy cholesterol level?

  • Maricela Flores

    what is a healthy cholesterol level for a 63 year old woman, my blood analysis shows 394 mg/dl HDL 76 and LDL 290.6.

loading symbol Loading More